Street Food Vietnam Fried Food

TGI Fryday (AKA Tuesdays and Thursdays, specifically). And nope, haven’t gotten tired of it yet! And yes, moderate moderation is practiced. These are dangerous waters for an overweight guy in his 30’s! But this is science, people. All for science, and the edification of myself and gentlestrangers like you.

Frying has been around at least since the Romans, and very likely was a technique imported from ancient Egypt. Virtually every culture has some version of ‘fried wholly or partly in oil/fat’ – it helps prolong shelf life for meats and vegetables and satisfies natural cravings in our brain for salt and fat, things that were historically scarce in our diet. It’s not very healthy, but also, if done properly, not an oil-soaked horror show (in the case of deep frying, the natural water content being superheated and expanding out of a piece of food repels oil naturally).

I’ve got my favorite stands around HCMC, and today… we’re going on a little fried journey.

Fried Prawns in Batter (Tom Chien)
Street Food Vietnam Fried Food

Average Cost: 5,000 VND (25 cents)
Mandatoryness Level: Meeehhhhhhhhhhhh…
Best Attributes:

-Best? Well, it IS a fried shrimp.

-However…

-Shrimp/Strangely Tasteless Batter ratio = 1:3

-I’ve gotten a few of these around town, and FAIR WARNING: the shrimp shell is usually not taken off. I’ve discovered that this is common in a few dishes, including Banh Xeo. After initially being weird about this quirk, now I’m too lazy to dig in and remove it manually. I don’t seem to have any problems with it as far as digestion goes, but it’s definitely different.

Flatbread
Street Food Vietnam Fried Food

Average Cost: 2,000 VND (10 cents)
Mandatoryness Level: None
Best Attributes:

-Well, again, it’s fried (theme song!)

-Also Bread, generally great.

-Not a lot of taste. Like… none. Needs salt, and definitely a bit of chili sauce.

 

 

Banh Bao Chien (Fried Banh Bao)

Street Food Vietnam Fried Food
Average Cost: 10,000 VND (50 cents)
Mandatoryness Level: Only if you love yourself and want to make yourself happy
Best Attributes:

-This was fantastic! It’s the size of a standard banh bao (generally the size of a man’s fist), which is something I already love. Plus, again, FRIED.

-I was expecting pork inside, but was very happy and pleasantly surprised to find that the filling for this particular one was a combination of herbs, mushrooms, and hardboiled quail eggs. Delicious.

Banh Mi Thit Chien (Fried Baguette with Pork)

Street Food Vietnam Fried Food
Average Cost: 15,000 VND (75 cents)
Mandatoryness Level: Weird but lovable
Best Attributes:

-This was certainly a odd surprise… but it pays off. A baguette with toppings is breaded and fried.

-Because of the crust of the baguette, it tends to be a little tough on the bottom (cut-the-roof-of-your-mouth tough), but it’s still so odd that your attention holds.

-Definitely get some chili sauce for this one. It’s good naked, but needs the chili kick to help define the pork and pepper topping beneath the fried breading.

-I have only seen this in Hoi An, btw.

Scallops!! Mozzarella Sticks!!

Street Food Vietnam Fried Food
Average Cost: 15,000 VND (75 cents)
Mandatoryness Level: YEEHAWWWWWW!
Best Attributes:

FAIR FOOD: AMAZING THE WORLD OVER!

-Seriously, you can get anything you want fried at the fair, and it’s so, so glorious.

-No, really… anything.  Bless Tet Holiday forever. I honestly have never seen a mozzarella stick in Vietnam before this. It was great.

Chinese Fry Bread

Street Food Vietnam Fried Food
Average Cost: 5,000 VND (25 cents)
Mandatoryness Level: Delicious Quick Snack
Best Attributes:

-One of the cheapest but most ubiquitous fried foods on the streets, this style of fry bread is light, airy, and perfectly delicious.

-Very easy to find – often a stall will sell this plus one or two other items, such as fresh spring rolls. Usually very fresh.


Fried Pork, Egg, and Mushroom Ball

Street Food Vietnam Fried Food
Average Cost: 10,000 VND (50 cents)
Mandatoryness Level: Again: YEEHAWWWWWW MAH DAMIES
Best Attributes:

-EVERYTHING

-THIS IS THE BEST ITEM I HAVE EATEN ON THE STREETS OF HCMC

-EAT THIS. THAT IS ALL. But in extreme moderation.

Some Weird Tet Cookies?

Street Food Vietnam Fried Food
Average Cost: 20,000 VND ($1 USD)
Mandatoryness Level: This is a pointless food
Best Attributes:

-Still very unclear what these were, but they were near my house so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

-They’re baked, not fried, and fairly tasteless, except for the very faint twinge of sweetness that marks it as a Vietnamese dessert.

Street Food Vietnam Fried Food-Stuffed with some kind of vaguely sweet rice vermicelli? No clue what that is.

-I don’t know… I ate two out of hunger and then gave the rest to the maid. I was not super impressed, because they don’t really taste like much.

-If you can identify these, please drop me a comment below! I bought them right before Tet.

Nuoc Ep Buoi (Fresh Pomelo Juice)
Street Food Vietnam Fried Food

Average Cost: 19,000 VND (90 cents)
Mandatoryness Level: You like grapefruit? Drink this.
Best Attributes:

-It’s not fried, but frankly, there’s been a lot of oil in this post. Here’s one of my favorite healthy options when I’m zooming around on my motorbike!

-They may be full of nutrients and electrolytes, but peeling and pressing a pomelo is a seriously thankless task, which is why this drink is so uncommonly expensive (relatively speaking, of course)

-If you’re feeling down this is the drink to perk you up. Check it out if you find a stand (I’ve found many in Go Vap and Tan Binh Districts). The stands usually also sell nuoc mia, another fresh-pressed juice (sugar cane juice).

And there’s my extended journey through the Land of Fried Street Food (and honestly, only a small fraction of it). I hope you enjoyed! I always love to see what other cultures are frying, because Americans go a bit… crazy… when presented with a deep fryer, and it’s good to keep your perspective.

As always, keep your eyes peeled for the next sweet stop of my street food odyssey, and leave must-try dishes in the comments below!